5 Things Washington: Policy cutoff, Bending the Rx cost curve, Capital gains tax

Thursday, we release our Detailed Agenda for our first national-level conference, the 2021 State of Reform Federal Health Policy Conference. You’ll see names from inside the beltway, as well as some of the most prominent thought leaders from states across the country. We’ve teed up some of the best stories we’ve ever found in our work across the country at State of Reform.

And, we’d love to have you with us! So, take a look at our Topical Agenda and consider making time to be with us on April 7-8th!





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Health bills on the move ahead of cutoff

The past two weeks have been busy in the legislature as both chambers have pushed through long floor sessions ahead of this evening’s cutoff for bills to pass out of their house of origin. Reporter Sydney Kurle has a rundown of health-related bills that passed off the Senate floor in recent weeks and another article that reviews the bills that passed off the House floor.

The lists include bills that passed with minimal debate, such as SB 5068, which would extend postpartum coverage through Apple Health to one year, and HB 1196, which would require reimbursement for audio-only telemedicine services. The rundowns also highlight more controversial bills that passed by slimmer margins such as SB 5203 – a bill that would allow the Health Care Authority to enter into partnerships with other states, state agencies, or nonprofit entities to produce, distribute, or purchase generic prescription drugs.

2. 5 slides: Innovations in bending the Rx cost curve

As hopes for a return to normalcy build, the intersection of cost pressures and innovation in pharmacy has become a topic of concern in health policy. So, on Thursday, March 25th from 12:00 – 1:00 pm, we’ll host our “5 Slides: Innovations in bending the Rx cost curve” virtual conversation, featuring a discussion of the latest in prescription drugs and pharmacy, from the science breakthroughs to the policy conversations.

The conversation will bring together Judy Zerzan, MD, Chief Medical Officer at the HCA, Yusuf Rashid, PharmD, VP of Pharmacy at CHPW, Megan McIntyre, PharmD, Director of Pharmacy Business Services at Virginia Mason, and Wayne Winegarden, PhD, Senior Fellow and Director, Center for Medical Economics and Innovation at the Pacific Research Institute. This event is free to attend, but you have to register to join us. You’ll be able to pose questions and participate in the conversation as well, just as you do in our conferences. So, we’d love to have you with us.


3. Premera is building an HMO product

Premera is advertising for a VP to help “lead the development of our new HMO and transform the way Premera works with providers.” It’s a big move for an organization that has been largely organized around a traditional PPO model.

The goal of a building a “vertical integration strategy” likely refers to the commercial plan’s acquisition of SoundPath Health a few years ago, a previously independent Medicare Advantage plan. It also likely refers to the company’s goal of entering the Medicaid line of business when the next RFP comes available from the HCA. I’m guessing that’s out in 12-18 months. So, building an HMO chassis in the next 12 months could potentially allow the plan to be more competitive entering the managed care world of Apple Health.


4. Capital gains tax passes in the Senate

If a vote could be closer than a one vote margin, then the 25-24 Senate vote Saturday on a capital gains tax in Washington State might be just the vote.  The bill now heads to the House. The key question may appear to be whether this bill is an “emergency.” An “emergency clause” would disallow voters a chance to call a referendum on this question, though an initiative could come to the ballot in 2023.

An amendment by Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-Lake Stevens) removed that “emergency clause” which I’m told was the difference in getting to enough votes for final passage. The House may decide to add it back in, putting the issue in doubt. A referendum would likely mean a vote on the subject this November. Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox said at a briefing last week that alerting “wealthy progressives” to the “consequences for them and for the economy and for the Seattle area” could be a way to apply pressure on House Democrats to water down the proposal.


5. Lobbyists reflect on the midway mark on session

This session is a unique one for lobbyists, who typically do a lot of their work in the hallways of the legislative building. In this conversation, two Olympia insiders, Amy Brackenbury and Chelene Whiteaker, offer their takes on the story of this session, the bills they’re watching, and the difficulties of a virtual session.

“I had a thing earlier this year where it took three Zoom meetings with a bunch of different people to try and figure out something that normally would have been resolved in a two-minute hallway conversation,” said Brackenbury. “So every communication has to be intentional and it makes it a lot harder to be accessible. And if someone doesn’t want to talk to you, it’s a lot easier for them to do that now.”